"I consider it my job to tell the story of courageous athletes who are willing to take on some of the most epic terrains in the world. But it’s more than that. It’s not just a job to me. It’s my life’s work and there isn’t any thing else that I’d rather do." — Tim Kemple
You won’t find photographer Tim Kemple stuck in a studio posing family members in front of a fake, pull-down background. That’s far too boring for this adventure seeker.
His studio is made up of the most breathtaking spots in the world. From rock faces in Mallorca, Spain to the ice-covered caves of southern Iceland, this action photographer spends his days shooting what most of us would call extreme sports – he just calls it another day at the office.
Kemple is known for his jaw-dropping shots of athletes in extreme situations. His wild images grace the covers of travel and adventure magazines, and his video rolls in big brand commercials like a recent Apple iPad spot.
For that shoot, Kemple worked with his three partners at Camp 4 Collective, a group he describes as a “tight-knit group of creative artists.” The team battled extreme weather conditions in the Canadian Bugaboo Spires to capture 12 seconds of video where a rock climber uses an iPad while suspended from a flat rock face in a tent.
Despite the challenges the team faced, the video is breathtaking. That’s the kind of work that’s become synonymous with Kemple. He captures extreme athletes in extreme conditions and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get the shot.
For instance, Kemple trekked through the Brazilian rain forest to take pictures of the Jungle Marathon.
This 150-mile endurance run sends athletes through anaconda-infested swamps and up steep elevations in 104-degree heat. During the weeklong race, Kemple was right there with the athletes, snapping pictures of the amazing feats needed to make it through the course.
“I took pictures from a canoe while battling huge insects that I can’t even describe,” Kemple jokes.
His body and his camera gear dealt with extreme conditions. From shooting in 99 percent humidity to sleeping in a hammock every night, Kemple says there’s nothing better than pushing the boundaries. It’s a mantra Kemple seems to live by, as he pushes the limits physically and creatively.
On a shoot last year, Kemple suspended himself over a 65-foot waterfall to get shots of kayakers cascading over a cliff in Mexico. A team of seven guys hauled kayaks, camera gear, survival kits, and zip line equipment through the jungle near Tlapacoyan, a remote location in southeastern Mexico.
With his body and his camera strapped to the line, Kemple pulled himself out above the waterfall.
“I was so close I could feel the mist hit me,” he says. “I wasn’t scared at the time because I knew the pictures would turn out great.”
He’s right. When his buddy and expert kayaker Tyler Brandt came paddling over the falls, Kemple got a great shot of him plunging down the water.
Most people, even most photographers, would be hesitant about hanging from a wire across a 200-foot canyon, but that’s what makes Kemple’s photography different than most.
Kemple’s love of photography stems from a not-so-ordinary childhood. He grew up in an active, outdoorsy family. It wasn’t uncommon for the Kemple’s to take a rock climbing vacation to Utah, or a skiing trip to Colorado.
“I wanted to be able to show people what we were doing on these adventures, and that’s when I picked up a camera for the first time,” he recalls.
When he was a teenager his love of extreme sports and photography were combined, and have been ever since. Through the years, he’s become the go-to photographer for action sports. His willingness to do what it takes to capture amazing photos is what sets his photography apart.
“I consider it my job to tell the story of courageous athletes who are willing to take on some of the most epic terrains in the world. But it’s more than that. It’s not just a job to me. It’s my life’s work and there isn’t any thing else that I’d rather do.”
About the author: Lisa Furgison loves to tell a good story. She’s worked in the journalism world for ten years and now freelances through her business, McEwen’s Media.